O'Driscoll's death leaves us 'bereft of a dedicated poet'


The late poet Dennis O’Driscoll “gave the art a good name” and his death “left the country bereft of a dedicated poet”, fellow poet Seamus Heaney said at O’Driscoll’s funeral Mass in Naas, Co Kildare.

Heaney praised O’Driscoll’s “courage and rectitude” and said his work had “added a new growth ring to the old traditional tree of Irish poetry”.

He “knew more than most” the value of O’Driscoll’s friendship, having collaborated with him over many years on a book “that needed to get written, but might not have got written” without his input.

Welcoming a capacity congregation to the Mass on Monday, which included President Michael D Higgins and the State’s foremost poets, writers and artists, Salesian priest Fr Hugh O’Donnell said O’Driscoll was a man of great virtue and confidentiality and was non-judgemental: the hallmarks “of a quality man”.

Fr O’Donnell quoted from the late poet’s own work to the effect that “poetry arrived in search of me”. As a poet O’Driscoll had been concerned “about poetry and the condition of poetry”, responding to it and interacting with it wherever it originated.

Fr O’Donnell said O’Driscoll liked Gregorian chant and he led the congregation in singing Kyrie Eleison. A responsorial psalm, Deus Meus, was sung by Ciarán Ó Gealbháin, while later Áine Uí Cheallaigh sang Liam Ó Raghallaigh.

Prayers were led by O’Driscoll’s extended family including Dr Macdara Ó Drisceoil, Cóilín Ó Drisceoil, Enya Ó Drisceoil, Eve Corbett and Lottie O’Driscoll.

While the funeral would feature beautiful words, music and singing, Fr O’Donnell said “no amount of words or singing can take away the sadness or the loss” caused by his sudden death. He said O’Driscoll’s widow, poet Julie O’Callaghan, did not want a joyous ceremony, but wanted to reflect the sense of shock and loss.

O’Callaghan quoted the Lithuanian-born Polish Poet Czeslaw Milosz: “It appears it was only a misunderstanding . . . The dead will wake up, not comprehending/Till everything that happened has unhappened.”

She said she was “overcome with gratitude and love” and thanked “all the poetry family” for their support.

“Denis was wise, kind, eloquent, magnificent, hilarious and heartbreaking,” she said.

In addition to O’Callaghan, the principle mourners were his brothers Proinsias, Séamus and Declan, sisters Marie and Eithne, and O’Callaghan’s family members, led by her sister Katie who had travelled from the US.

Among the congregation were many notable figures from the literary and artistic community including poets Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Rita Ann Higgins, Michael Coady, Tony Curtis, Gerald Dawe, Mary O’Donnell, and artists Patrick Scott and Imogen Stuart. The writer Anne Enright and RTÉ presenter Joe Duffy attended, as did Northern poets Michael Longley, Ciaran Carson and Frank Ormsby.